GOVERNOR SIGNS COMPENSATION BILL
FOR WRONGLY-CONVICTED ATLANTAN
Atlanta - May 27, 2007
Today Governor Sonny Perdue signed into law a measure that will compensate Robert Clark $1.2 million for his nearly 25 years of wrongful inprisonment.
"We are thrilled for Mr. Clark and hope this money will help him build a very happy and successful life," said Aimee Maxwell, Executive Director of the Georgia Innocence Project.
The compensation will be paid over a 15 year period, and Mr. Clark says his first goal is to purchase his own home. The law firm Alston & Bird, LLP, which was instrumental in developing the legislative compensation package for Mr. Clark, will help him manage his funds along with the assistance of Joe Barry Carroll, a GIP supporter.
Robert Clark was arrested in 1981 and convicted in 1982 for rape, robbery, and kidnapping in Cobb County, Georgia. He was sentenced to life in prison. The Innocence Project (New York) took his case in 2003, and the Georgia Innocence Project joined as local counsel in December of that year. Mr. Clark was exonerated of all charges in December 2005.
Since his release, Mr. Clark has been working in construction.
To read news articles about Robert Clark's case, visit our Media Archives.
To help support the work of the Georgia Innocence Project, click here.
UNANIMOUSLY APPROVES $1.2 MILLION IN FINANCIAL
COMPENSATION FOR ROBERT CLARK
Atlanta – April 10, 2007
Georgia Senators unanimously approved a compensation package today for Robert Clark, an Atlanta man who spent more than 24 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
Clark put his hands together prayerfully and smiled as the resolution passed. Just moments before, he had stood in the Senate gallery as the legislators applauded him.
Sponsored by Sen. Horacena Tate, the measure now returns to the House for reconciliation.
Clark told reporters after the vote that he plans to buy a house with the first installment of his compensation money, if the Governor approves the measure.
The Georgia Innocence Project expresses its sincere gratitude to Terry Walsh and Gary Horlacher of Alston & Bird LLP for their exceptional pro bono work on assisting Mr. Clark in this effort.
COMPENSATION RESOLUTION FOR
Atlanta – March 19, 2007
The Georgia House of Representatives today approved HR 102, to compensate Robert Clark $1.2 million dollars for wrongful conviction and imprisonment.
“I am so happy. Thank God!” said Mr. Clark, who was sitting in the House chambers for today’s vote. “I just wish my mother had been here.”
Clark’s mother passed away in 2004, while the Innocence Project (Cordozo Law School, New York City) and the Georgia Innocence Project were in litigation with Cobb County to test the DNA evidence that ultimately proved Clark’s innocence. Clark, now 46, spent more than 24 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. DNA testing exonerated him, and he was released on December 8, 2005.
At the conclusion of the resolution’s approval, 132-25, Mr. Clark also expressed his gratitude to Rep. Larry O’Neal (R-Bonaire), the sponsor of the bill, and Mr. Terry Walsh of the Atlanta law firm Alston & Bird. Alston & Bird has served pro bono as the chief consultant to the Georgia Innocence Project on the resolution.
“We are grateful to the Georgia House for recognizing the need to help Mr. Clark rebuild his life and for acting on that need,” said Georgia Innocence Project Executive Director Aimee Maxwell.
The resolution now goes to the Georgia Senate.
To date, DNA evidence has proven the innocence of 197 Americans, including six Georgia men, long after their convictions. Mr. Clark was the 164 th American to be exonerated by DNA evidence and the fifth Georgian.
GEORGIA EXONEREES REBUILD THEIR LIVES
Atlanta --May 23, 2006
by Lisa George, GIP Communications Director
What can you accomplish in six months? If you're Robert Clark, you can take great strides towards rebuilding a normal life. Clark, 45, will soon celebrate six months of freedom after nearly 25 years of incarceration for a crime he did not commit.
Clark has gotten a job detailing charter buses, he has acquired a car, has just rented his first apartment on his own, and he is learning to use a computer. He is also working to re-establish relationships with friends and family members and to build a solid future.
"My main goal is to become financially secure," says Clark. To that end, he is looking for a second, part-time job and plans soon to enroll in a GED course. His long-term goal is to start his own business.
Robert is working hard, but many of his successes would not have been possible without the generosity and expertise of the many individuals and organizations who assist Robert through the Georgia Innocence Project's Life After Exoneration program.
The Georgia Innocence Project and Robert Clark would to express their gratitude to the numerous donors who have reached out to Robert including Alston & Bird LLP, Dr. Adrienne Bradford, Valerie White, Dr. Thomas Burns, and several benefactors who have chosen to remain anonymous.
Clark follows in the footsteps of Clarence Harrison. Harrison was released from prison in 2004 after nearly 18 years of wrongful incarceration. In the 21 months since Harrison's release, he has acquired a job working as a security guard, has learned to drive, and has learned to use a computer. Most notably, thanks to Emory University, Harrison will begin classes next month to work towards a paralegal certificate.
Harrison and Clark, along with Calvin Johnson, Georgia's first DNA exoneree, recently attended the National Innocence Network Conference. There they helped establish an Exoneree Council, a group which hopes to help all 178 of the nation's exonerees -- and those to come -- strive to rebuild their lives.
Johnson, exonerated in 1999, now serves on the boards of directors of the Georgia Innocence Project and the original Innocence Project in New York. He works as a supervisor for Atlanta's Metropolitan Rapid Transit Authority. Both Johnson and Harrison make numerous public appearances before school and youth groups. They also speak to prisoners throughout the state.
Samuel Scott and Douglas Echols, both exonerated in 2002, live in the Savannah area. Co-defendants in the same case, Scott and Echols continue their efforts to seek financial compensation from the State of Georgia. Georgia's legislature have previously compensated both Johnson and Harrison. The Georgia Innocence Project plans to seek financial compensation for Robert Clark in 2007.
TWO WEEKS OF FREEDOM
BRING A HAPPY HOLIDAY FOR ROBERT CLARK
Atlanta --December 22, 2005
by Lisa George, GIP Communications Director
Like any proud grandfather, Robert Clark is looking forward to spending Christmas with his children and grandchildren. But unlike most, this will be the first Christmas Clark has spent with his family in nearly a quarter century.
Just two weeks ago, DNA evidence exonerated Clark of a crime he did not commit, and he walked away from 24 years of life as a prisoner.
You would think he has spent the past fortnight celebrating; certainly he's entitled. But rebuilding a life from scratch is hard work, and it has consumed most of Clark's time since his release.
The 45-year-old Clark has gotten a photo ID that doesn't have a Corrections Department number on it. He has met with doctors, nurses, lawyers and counselors who want to help him rebuild his life. He is studying to renew his driver's license. He has even gotten a cell phone and has been on a job interview.
Those are necessary tasks, and there will be many more to come before Robert Clark's life has any semblance of normalcy. But he has plenty of people who are helping.
Alston & Bird, one of Atlanta's largest law firms, has reached out to help. Not only is the firm providing civil legal services, the lawyers there have secured donated dental care, are assisting the Georgia Innocence Project in finding Clark housing, and have made sure that there will be plenty of presents under his Christmas tree.
The Georgia Public Defender Standards Council's Office of the Mental Health Advocate is assisting in securing counseling and other services.
V-103 Radio gave Clark several early Christmas gifts including a five-night stay in a luxury hotel, a shopping spree, and a trip to Jamaica.
And countless private citizens who have heard Clark's story are sending cards and gifts not only for Clark but for his grandchildren as well.
The Georgia Innocence Project is grateful for the generosity of everyone who has provided goods, services and donations. They are making for a very happy holiday for Robert Clark, and he is grateful as well. If you saw Clark's photo in the countless news stories done about his release, you know his winning smile. We are happy to report that smile is still on Robert's face. The past two weeks have been a time of great joy for us at the Georgia Innocence Project; Robert's release is the best holiday gift we could have imagined.
But once the holidays are over and the media notoriety has died down, there is still much work ahead. Robert Clark has 24 years of living and learning to catch up on. If you'd like to be part of that work, please donate or contact the Georgia Innocence Project.
For more on Robert Clark's road to freedom, please visit the Articles section of this website.
ROBERT CLARK FREED FROM PRISON
AFTER 24 YEARS, DNA EVIDENCE EXONERATES HIM
Atlanta --December 8, 2005
by Lisa George, GIP Communications Director
He says he hasn't had a good night's sleep since in 24 years -- more than half his life ago. But tonight 45-year-old Robert Clark has a better chance at getting some rest. Tonight he trades a prison cell for his childhood bedroom in Atlanta.
Clark was arrested in 1981 for rape, robbery, and kidnapping. In 1982, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. DNA evidence has now proven that Clark did not commit that heinous crime, and the work of the Innocence Project has set him free.
After a brief hearing in Cobb County Superior Court today, Clark met with members of the media, his lawyers from the Innocence Project, his family members, and the Georgia Innocence Project, which will help Clark rebuild his life.
Clark says he isn't sure of his plans for the future, but for now, he just wants to spend time with his family -- and to get some rest.
For more on Robert Clark's case, visit the Articles section.
ROBERT CLARK EXONERATED BY DNA EVIDENCE
AFTER 24 YEARS IN PRISON
Test results now identify the likely perpetrator and link him to two unsolved rapes.
New York - December 7, 2005
New DNA test results secured by the Innocence Project of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and the Georgia Innocence Project prove that Robert Clark of Atlanta is an innocent man. On Thursday, December 8, the Innocence Project anticipates that Robert Clark will have all charges dismissed and be released at a hearing before Judge Dorothy Robinson at the Cobb County Superior Courthouse at 2:00pm. Mr. Clark, his family members and attorneys will be available briefly for questions after the hearing.
Robert Clark eagerly awaiting his release from prison.
Georgia Innocence Project photo
Convicted at age 21, Mr. Clark has spent nearly 25 years in prison for the 1981 rape of an Atlanta woman. During his years in prison, his children grew up and his mother passed away. These test results not only prove his innocence, but also identify the likely perpetrator, Floyd Antonio “Tony” Arnold, a known sex offender who has recently been linked to two previously unsolved rapes.
In July 1981, a woman was kidnapped and raped by an armed man who later fled in her car. She described her attacker as slightly taller than herself, approximately 5’7”. A week later, Clark was spotted driving the victim’s car and arrested, but not initially considered a suspect in the rape because of the disparity between him and the victim’s description ( Clark is over 6’1”). Clark told police he got the car from a friend, Tony Arnold, but the police made no attempt to investigate Arnold .
“Despite the fact that Robert was a head taller than the description, once the police locked in on him, it was all over,” said Peter Neufeld, Co-Director of the Innocence Project. “The lead detective was so focused on him, that all other suspects, other incidents, or any discordant data failed to register. Tunnel vision not only cost Robert a quarter century of freedom, it enabled a serial rapist to assault at least three more victims.”
At trial, Clark maintained that he was misidentified. He was the only suspect to appear in both the photo array and the live line-up. A defense witness testified that she saw Tony Arnold, who more closely resembled the description, driving a car matching the victim’s Maroon Cutlass a few days after the rape. Tony Arnold, who was in jail on an unrelated burglary charge, was brought to court and identified by the witness. Nevertheless, Clark was convicted and sentenced to life plus 20 years in prison.
“For the fifth time, DNA has proven the innocence of a Georgia man wrongfully convicted because of a mistaken eyewitness identification,” said Innocence Project staff attorney Vanessa Potkin. “This is a mistake that could and should have been prevented by diligent police work twenty four years ago.”
After November 2005 DNA tests completed by Serological Research Institute excluded Clark , the Innocence Project immediately requested a CODIS DNA database search of the evidence. A match came back to Arnold, who has been in prison since 2003 on a cruelty to children conviction and was due to be released in January 2006.
While Clark was wrongfully imprisoned, Arnold was free to commit other crimes, including a 1985 sodomy. In 2003, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation also matched Arnold to a previously unsolved 1993 Fulton County rape and a 1996 DeKalb County rape. As of November 2005, he had not been charged in either incident.
For background on the case, click here.
For details on the prevalence of mistaken ID leading to wrongful convictions, click here.
For a list of issues surrounding this case, click here.
For an excerpt from the trial transcript featuring testimony from the victim, click here.
For an excerpt from the trial transcript featuring testimony from the lead investigator, click here.
For an excerpt from the trial transcript featuring testimony from a defense witness, click here.
For an excerpt from the sentencing hearing, click here.